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General Motors Issues Ignition Switch Recall

August 18, 2016

The flip of a switch comes ten years too late

In one of the largest actions of its kind, General Motors has recalled 2.6 million cars due to a dangerous defect in a mass-produced ignition switch-a problem GM had known about for over a decade.

The defect: If ignition switches in certain models were bumped or weighed down by a heavy key ring, the switch could move out of the “run” position and into the “accessory” position. This shut off the engine and disabled the power steering and anti-lock brake functions, making it far more difficult to control the car. What’s even scarier is that this malfunction also disables the airbag, drastically increasing the risk of serious injury or death.

Models affected by the recall include the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion, and Saturn Sky.

The earliest report of an issue with the ignition switch was back in 2001, when GM engineers reported the problem during pre-production testing of a Saturn Ion. Consumers reported issues with the ignition switch as early as 2004. Despite these reports-and despite the fact that the issue itself would have cost less than a dollar per car to repair-GM did not issue a recall for the faulty ignition switches until more than a decade after the issue was first reported.

While General Motors has taken responsibility for 13 deaths caused this faulty ignition switch, some reports claim that number is far too low-as many as 303 fatalities have been linked to the defect. One main reason for this glaring discrepancy is that GM’s tally only includes accidents in which a car with a malfunctioning ignition switch was in a head-on collision. Other types of deadly crashes were not counted.

GM’s responsibilities to consumers

There are more than 250 million cars on the road in the U.S. today, and every one of them can potentially pose a hazard to others. That’s why auto manufacturers in America and worldwide have a duty to their consumers and the rest of us to protect our safety on the road.

Before any car is released on the market, it is put through extensive crash and safety testing. But no test is perfect. Sometimes, issues are missed or aren’t discovered until later. When problems are discovered after a car has been sold, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to take action promptly to fix the problem and ensure the safety of the people using those cars.

General Motors knew about this hazard more than ten years ago. They knew that a malfunctioning ignition switch could have catastrophic consequences, yet they did nothing, even when faced with reports of accidents. GM is now on the hook for millions of dollars in damages, and 15 employees have lost their jobs.  Unfortunately, those losses pale in comparison to the hundreds of lives lost or destroyed because of GM’s decision to allow this defect to continue to affect the safety of its cars.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident involving this or any other defective automobile products, you might feel like you’re facing an uphill battle. A case against a major car company can be long and complicated. You need an advocate, someone who is on your side. You need Coplan + Crane. Call today for a free case evaluation.